Notes on community and liturgy, virtual and otherwise

28 02 2011

This post is inspired by this one. Really, I have very little time and will to write for that site anymore, and posts like that are the reason why.

EWTN as a new “subculture”? A new “ghetto”? The thing about ghettoes is that you don’t choose to live in one. It is never about choice. Those who aspire to a ghetto are the ones we know have no idea what they are talking about. One of the common themes of this blog is that those who have nostalgia for the “Catholic past” don’t remember it all that well. They remember the deference that some had for the clergy, the supposed “reverence” inspired more by social taboo than anything else, and the remnants of architecture that have not been razed yet in modern times. They forget the bigotry, the witchcraft, the “superstition”, and the cruel cosmos that was at the center of the “old ways”. People like this who are nostalgic for the old subculture merely want a crypto-Protestant evangelical, Republican Party in prayer, Christianity with props that they don’t even understand. I hate to get all “racial” about it, but a bunch of newly minted “middle class white Christians” with vowels on their last names are not going to remake “Christendom”. A few cult-like Catholic communes are not going to save the world.

Which brings me to my next point: someone really needs to write an extensive religious defense of secular reason. Increasingly, I don’t see “secularism” as a four letter word. I don’t think that it should be defended 100%, Richard Dawkins should not be made Pope. But someone needs to point out that what we detest most about secularism is often what is the most Christian. “Relativism” just didn’t come out of some arbitrary wish for us to screw and marry a table leg if we are so inclined. It really came out of a vision of seeing that, within a plurality of views, bloodshed is inevitable unless we tone things down a bit. Also, the rationalist cosmos, and I am the first to admit that modern scientism is far too simplistic, nevertheless is the building block for us having the Internet, microwave ovens, and penicillin. As much as neo-Thomists wish that modern science was the direct product of Aristotelian hylomorphism, it is just as much a product of Cartesian dualism and Kantian apriorism. In this sense, even the most reactionary Western religiosity is a product of secularism, just as Islamic fundamentalism was shaped by modern colonialism, and so on. In truth, the religion that came before it, which for some is a not so distant memory, was essentially different.

On liturgy: I’ve never understood some people’s obsession with the 1962 books. As far as I can tell, the only reason people bring them up so much is because Archbishop Lefebvre decided to use them in his seminary after the future sedevacantists objected to the use of the 1965 books (i.e. the last permutation of the old liturgy prior to the Pauline missal). By 1962, the liturgy had changed quite a bit. But what is notable about 1962 is that it was really the first breach in the wall of the “unchanging liturgy”. A hundred years earlier, Pius IX explicitly refused to add St. Joseph’s name to the Canon of the Mass. In the Catholic clerical consciousness, the Canon was an unchanging text, akin to the Gospels. Whether or not this was the case is irrelevant, that was at least the perception. Once you changed it by adding a good, “conservative” thing, it was only a matter of time before it became optional.

And really, that is all “traditionalism” is: it’s optional. Catholic ceremonial prior to the Liturgical Movement of the early 20th century had as much pastoral weight as a rain dance or an indigenous secret initiation in a cave. It was done to placate the gods, to keep the sun shining every morning, etc. Whether or not we understood it was neither here nor there. Even in modern traditionalism (except for the SSPX, but even they have a distorted view of things) the sacred has “left the building”. What is really sacred is democracy, human rights, property, my rights as a (religious) consumer, and so on. That is the real religion, and we all follow it.

Who is afraid of a “dictatorship of relativism”? Not me. If that is where the World Spirit wants to go, who am I to argue with it? In reality, even the Church will come around, since, I have always argued, it already has. The Church is playing second fiddle at this point, and maybe that is a good thing.

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11 responses

28 02 2011
Mchicha Wacheza

I know now you do not pray the rosary

28 02 2011
Turmarion

As much as neo-Thomists wish that modern science was the direct product of Aristotelian hylomorphism, it is just as much a product of Cartesian dualism and Kantian apriorism.

I second this. In the early 90′s I was on a neo-Thomistic kick for awhile after having read too much Mortimer Adler, but even at the time I didn’t think he engaged with or even understood modern science very well. He insisted that atoms are only a potentia(!), and while I won’t get into it here, his view of quantum indeterminacy was just, well, weird. Over the years I’ve come to think that Aristotle’s defective physics (and take it from a sometime physics teacher, any philosophical chops aside, Aristotle’s physics is really, really bad) bleeds into his metaphysics (and thus into Thomism) a lot more than is appreciated.

Of course another flaw of Adler’s was that he denied anything valuable, true, or even useful in any philosophy from Descartes onward (see his book Ten Philosophical Mistakes). I think he makes certain legitimate points, and I think philosophy since the early 20th Century has been on various wrong tracks such as positivism and postmodernism; but to brush it all off tout court is not only dogmatic but failing to see the world as it is.

I read Edward Feser’s blog now and then, and you see the same thing there. He makes some good points, but there’s a definite flavor of not really getting a lot of modern science, and there’s a definite odor of treating as living a worldview that in many ways is simply dead.

And really, that is all “traditionalism” is: it’s optional. Catholic ceremonial prior to the Liturgical Movement of the early 20th century had as much pastoral weight as a rain dance or an indigenous secret initiation in a cave.

Our parish is having a Bible study in which I’ve been participating (which was a wrong move, but that’s another story), and the presenter in the DVD used the term “Shinto Catholicism”, which I thought was absolutely hilarious, and more or less along the same lines as you’re talking about here. Of course in the context of how she used it, it was meant to be derogatory, because of course only Catholics that aren’t seeerious about their faith are like that, y’know….

28 02 2011
Mchiwacha Wacheza Pwara

Man, Philosophy, a passing cloud..

28 02 2011
M.Z.

How dare you claim that marketing demographic and cultural ghetto can’t be used interchangeably! lol I’m half scared to look back and see how much I bought into the I-create-my-own-reality-BS.

28 02 2011
Le Panda du Mal

Or maybe Hegel was just wrong…

28 02 2011
Turmarion

Hegel wasn’t wrong–we just needed a new synthesis of his thought…. ;)

1 03 2011
Le Panda du Mal

I seriously think some people have trouble with the notion that, just because an idea is popular, influential, or academically respected, doesn’t mean it isn’t bullshit.

1 03 2011
Turmarion

I actually don’t like Hegel myself–just a philosophical inside joke there. You’re right, though–there is a surplus of popular, influential, and academically resepcted stuff which one would call pure b.s., but it would be an insult to all the other b.s.

1 03 2011
sortacatholic

Arturo: Catholic ceremonial prior to the Liturgical Movement of the early 20th century had as much pastoral weight as a rain dance or an indigenous secret initiation in a cave. [...] What is really sacred is [...] my rights as a (religious) consumer, and so on.

The reformed liturgy of Paul VI is an repristination of patristic or late antique texts according to modern and post-modern academic heuristic processes. The liturgy prior to Pius X or so, while quite far from anything resembling late antique hellenistic liturgy, maintains a level of organic development from at least 6th century CE Western Christianity. Neither, however, retains any claim to absolute revelation in a post-post-Enlightenment world.

A religious “consumer” has no right other than to worship in a manner consonant with human rights as defined by rights to autonomy and personal integrity (ideally) enshrined in modern common law. The SSPX have a right to believe that only those who confess the primacy of the Pontiff and celebrate a 16th century recension of the Western liturgy possess the right to public worship and even salvation. However, the SSPX is not free to victimize Jewish people or anyone, for that matter, who does not subscribe to their narrow definition of the Catholic and Christian belief, faith, and polity. Cult is sacrosanct so long as it does not violate the emotional or physical integrity of another person or group of people.

4 03 2011
Recreate the Catholic Ghetto? Is It Even Possible? » First Thoughts | A First Things Blog

[...] blogger Arturo Vasquez disagrees, saying that’s impossible: And really, that is all “traditionalism” is: it’s optional. [...]

5 03 2011
Tony de New York

As a Hispanic myself i see u don’t know much about our faith.

Santa Maria Purisima!
Ruega por Arturo Vasquez.

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